How Overcoming Personal Adversity Can Kick-Start Your Professional Life

Sometimes when really bad things happen, it actually illuminates a part of us that is really great. When things in my personal life take a turn for the worst, I generally dwell on it for a while, and then pick myself back up and focus my energy elsewhere. So why not make that elsewhere something really productive for your life? It doesn’t have to be something big at first… you can buy a new book you’ve been meaning to read that will inspire you, or meet some new friends that will push you closer to your future goals in life.

Yes, displacing your efforts somewhere away from what’s going on in your personal life may be a form of avoidance or distraction, but sometimes we all need that. I’m not recommending that you completely shut out whatever is going on in your life, but rather channeling some of your energy towards something more positive and uplifting than whatever hardship you are going through.

I’m willing to bet that anyone that has started their own business or ferociously pursued a new idea or sold all of their belongings for a round the world trip has had some type of personal life breakdown that led them to want to make a change. It’s rare that someone who is, or seemingly is, pretty content with how things are going in their life to make a total 180-degree change.

A breakdown point can result from a number of different things – a death in the family, relationship problems, unhappiness at work, personal stressors, the bad economy, etc. Allow yourself to properly deal with the hardship, and then be determined to move on from it. As soon as you get a new, positive focus, the bad things in your life will slowly be replaced with this invigorating and purposeful shift.

My recommendation would be to turn your focus to your professional life, especially if it’s your current work status that is making you stressed or depressed. If it’s not your current work status and something else, like a break-up or loss, investing time into your professional life (your “career”) is also a great idea. For the most part, we are motivated by doing well, receiving praise, accomplishing our goals, and sharing our happiness. Each one of those parts is important, and they can be achieved by investing time into your professional life.

The “professional life” sphere is a pretty big area. To some, it could mean finding a 9-5 job that really satisfies what you want your career path to look like. For others, it will mean working retail or finding a way to work from home so that you have a more flexible schedule, but a steady income. For others still, it will mean starting their own business to obtain maximum flexibility in their career path. There is an unlimited number of paths that you can take, but I think the underlying goal to all of these paths is to a) be happy and b) make enough money to sustain a lifestyle.

I’m focusing most of my time on my professional life right now because of a couple personal life struggles, and I find myself even more motivated to succeed in this area of my life than I ever have before. I think that devoting time to work, GOOD work, is vastly important in everyone’s life. While a lot of people will talk about how great it would be to relax on the beach all day long doing nothing, I doubt this would be fulfilling in the long run. We need to DO – we need to achieve and succeed and think and innovate in a way that make senses for us on an individual level.

What makes one person satisfied can be totally different than what works for another person, so the key here is to figure out what will make you the most satisfied and happy in life and work towards that goal. Doing this after a personal blow will help you feel motivated and excited. There’s no better time to reinvent your professional life than when you are feeling particularly unsatisfied by your personal life.

For more inspiration, check out the blogs on my “The Smashed Planet Recommends” sidebar for awesome people doing awesome things. Read their stories about the journey towards happiness through professional exploration and change. Cordelia Calls It Quits, The Trailblazing Life, Castle’s In The Air and all come highly recommended.

About the Author

jenfromal Jen Fromal is a writer and traveler, working on a career that allows her to do both of these things. While writing for her blog The Smashed Planet, Jen is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities in travel and business. When not writing, Jen can be found planning her next big trip, frolicking outside with her dog or watching documentaries.

  • Cordelia

    Thanks so much for the shout out, Jen!

    You make a really good point about the need to have a meaningful “professional” sphere in your life. I’ve definitely struggled with the “lounge on a beach” vision myself because currently, my professional sphere isn’t at all meaningful for me. Since my job only drains me and does nothing to fill me up personally, for a long time all I could fantasize about was having no job whatsoever. But all play and no work would ultimately leave me just as dissatisfied.

    I’m just beginning to realize that there are so many more meanings to “work” than “job that pays the bills.” It isn’t *no* job that I need–it’s a career that allows me to do meaningful work that gives me purpose and makes a positive impact on the world around me. And when you find something like that, “work” becomes a means of “play” anyway. The divide gets fuzzy and your life becomes more of an integrated whole than several compartmentalized categories.

    But, as you say, everyone has their own particular career path. Other people might be perfectly happy having a career that is distinct and separate from their personal lives–in fact, they might prefer it. The key is in finding what works for you.

    Sorry for a bit of a ramble, but you really got me thinking this morning! :)


    • Jen Fromal

      There was a point where I thought that “no job” would be ideal too. Freedom to do whatever I wanted. But, then, I realized that I WANT to work. I like working when the work that I’m doing is fulfilling, helpful to others, making me money, and has some level of fun to it. So, yeah, there are “right” and “wrong” types of work for every person I guess. I’m aiming for a life in the future where my work and play co-mingle :)

  • Dave Ursillo


    You are totally right in saying that every person has different needs, wants, and ideas of what will give them fulfillment and purpose in their professional lives. Sadly, I think we don’t really understand how the “purpose and fulfillment” aspect can be realized in the “real world” until we are forced to confront it when we enter the “real world” after formal education ends — at least, that is what happened to me personally and I’ve witnessed hundreds of classmates and friends deal with the same issue.

    Thanks for the shout out :)


    • Jen Fromal

      I can definitely see where you are coming from, because it was my path as well. I started working a full-time job even before my college graduation. I was ready to hit the work-force straight on. I feel like I needed to go through that, however, to realize that it would never be the only thing that fulfills and satisfies me. It is unfortunate that formal education guides us all to be office employees though. Good thing we are young and resilient :)

  • Collin Vine

    Hey Jen,

    I don’t know if it’s just me but I usually have a hard time shunning troublesome areas out of my life. I find it can work for a short term, but it usually causes chaos in the long term. For example, recently there was some girlie issues in my life and it was on my mind all the time. I tried at first to ignore it but I found the thoughts keep creeping back to my mind.

    I sort my problems out through journaling. So that’s what I did: sat down with a pad of paper and a pen and wrote as much as I could about it. This usually gave me either a) a different perspective or b) a better understanding or c) would tire me of the subject that I could literally move on for the time.

    I kinda wish I could just push things out like that, though. You have some super human skill ;)

    Thanks for the shout out, btw.


    • Jen Fromal

      Haha! Maybe I am super human. I have a pretty easy time compartmentalizing areas of my life.. I figure you can’t let some THING that happens define who you are, or how you act, etc. Of course things bother me, but having an overall positive outlook on life and relying on being a resilient, young, able person has been a really good motivator and “recovery tool” for me.

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